The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has released a preliminary report on a mid-air collision between two sightseeing helicopters that resulted in the death of a British couple.
The incident occurred on January 2 in Main Beach, Queensland, not far from Sea World. The report provides factual information about the accident’s sequence of events but contains no findings.
According to the report, the two Eurocopter EC130 helicopters were operated by Sea World Helicopters on five-minute scenic flights.
One helicopter with a pilot and five passengers on board was approaching a helipad adjacent to the Sea World theme park. The second, with a pilot and six passengers, had just departed a nearby helipad within the theme park when they collided above the Broadwater.
The investigation will focus on both pilots’ issues in seeing the other helicopter, the nature of radio calls, operator procedures, and regulatory approvals.
While video footage taken by passengers in both helicopters on mobile phones contained images of the other helicopter, the ATSB said this does not mean the other helicopter was visible to either pilot.
ATSB Chief Commissioner Angus Mitchell said that the investigation will look more broadly beyond the issues of radio calls and visibility.
It will also consider the operator’s procedures and practices for operating scenic flights in the Sea World area and the process for implementing the recently-acquired EC130 helicopters into operation.
Additionally, the ATSB will review the regulatory surveillance of the operator and similar operators.
The report says that at 1.55 pm, the pilot of helicopter XKQ commenced their scenic flight and was climbing over water in the direction of the sandbar near the helipad.
The pilot of helicopter XH9 reported that they did not hear a taxi call over the radio from the pilot of XKQ.
Two passengers on board XH9 spotted XKQ, and at least one attempted verbal guidance to the pilot.
However, as the verbal guidance did not work, and anticipating a potential collision, one passenger physically alerted the pilot.
The pilot of XH9 later recalled being alerted to the other helicopter by a passenger but did not see XKQ approaching before the collision.
At the height of about 130 ft and 23 seconds into XKQ’s flight, the helicopters collided. If the ATSB identifies a critical safety issue during the investigation, it will immediately alert the relevant parties so they can take appropriate action.»Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) releases a preliminary report«